A Small Sneak Preview of Book Three: Robert’s Rules

In June I will be making an appearance at the ALA (American Library Association) 2017 Conference and Exhibition in Chicago. One of the traditions at this event is for authors to provide unedited copies of the first three chapters or so of their upcoming books, flaws and all.
So, with the permission of my editor, I think it is only right that those of you who follow me here should have the first glance.

So watch this space for periodic sneak previews of what’s to come in the third book of the North of the Tension Line series, beginning with this snippet.

PROLOGUE

My earliest memories are of fire.

I was lying in my crib in the dark, and my father woke me, wrapped me in my blankets, and carried me from the house. There were sirens coming closer. I remember the scratchy wool of his jacket on my cheek, its dusty smell in my nostrils, and the feel of the cool night air. Then the smoke was everywhere.

My mother and father and sister and brother were all there, with jackets over their night clothes. My father carried me in his arms as we all moved toward the fire down the street.

“The pig farm,” my mother said.

I knew the pig farm. I knew the comfortable smell of well kept animals; the sight of the red barn on the hill, the pleasures of catching a glimpse of a tractor, or better yet, a family of piglets, on an afternoon ride.

Instead, I could see the silhouettes of men against flames that reached into the sky, the yellow and orange fire that flickered and shot up; the black shadows of men in big coats, and boots, and helmets, carrying hoses and axes.

There was a low rumbling sound from the diesel engines of the fire trucks; the crackling static voices of the radios and walkie talkies.

My father hoisted me up on his shoulders, and I could look down at the tangle of hoses, the gleaming puddles everywhere, with the circling red lights. I could hear more sirens in the distance, more fire companies arriving, the undulating shift of their sound changing as they moved.

“The poor animals,” murmured my mother, watching the flames. There was another smell in the air that was not wood burning.

I was afraid, but I did not cry.

Maybe I slept on my father’s head.

At last the men’s voices changed from shouts to words, the brilliant, intoxicating light in the night was gone, leaving a gray dawn. The red lights of the trucks still turned, reflecting in the puddles of water as the firemen coiled the hoses. The voices on the radios still crackled, but with less frequency, as the fire men, weary, diminished their conversation.

I do not remember being tucked back into bed. But I remember the flames.

I always remember the flames.

In the Prayers of a Stranger

I recently realized that my life had become rather narrow, and that music, once the central focus of my existence, had been reduced to passive listening. So, most days, now, I spend some time playing the piano badly.

It doesn’t matter that I can’t play as well as I used to when I was serious, just that I play. It is both engaging and mentally clarifying.

To assist in building this new habit, I am using an app that tactfully nudges and rewards for building habits.  The app also includes a portion I don’t generally use, an opportunity to be part of the app’s “community” of people messaging others who are working on the same things.

These kinds of things are not to my taste. Community means real people that you can see and touch. But last night I casually started glancing through this section, and along with the people needing to study for their exams, or lose weight, I came across a message from someone trying to escape an addiction to Meth. It was more than a cry for help, it was a howl of despair.

We all live in our little bubbles. We write. We sleep. We go to work. We make dinner. We try to be kind. We are people, presumably of good will. But then something happens, and the reality of real people in the anguish of suffering and surviving breaks through without warning.

Modern life expands our boundaries beyond our capacity to cope. We are not meant to bear the suffering of the whole world. We are meant to see what is before us and to act. This is why anonymous technology and non-stop news is so hollow and soul-crushing. It both puts the suffering of the world before us, and makes us powerless to attempt any help.

I doubt my message made any difference.  Disembodied words are no substitute for being present. But maybe there can be some small comfort in being in the prayers of a stranger.

 

Puppy Countdown

Auggie Practices Terrorizing

Tomorrow is Meet the Puppy Day. Neither he nor our dogs at home have any idea what’s about to happen.

My husband keeps telling Pete and Moses that The Black Terror is coming. Auggie looks pretty laid back for a Terror, but I will admit that I am in denial.

Let the puppy destruction commence.

St. Augustine the Younger; Foe of Coyote Pagans

So, for those of you who have been kind enough to enquire, Book 3 is coming along nicely. A small distraction will be developing soon, however. My husband and I will be traveling to Georgia next weekend to pick up our new puppy, St. Augustine. He is a cousin to Moses, and will, no doubt, be an annoyance to Pete.

My husband had had misgivings about a third dog until we caught a coyote stalking Pete, who, at 13, is spry and happy, but nearly stone deaf. Moses, a fearless opponent of coyotes, chased it off without missing a beat, with Pete being none the wiser. Coyote confrontation does not exactly make me happy, and I strive to prevent it, but it has worked out well for Pete. German Shepherds are often referred to as GSDs. In our house we use the term BSD, for Big Scary Dog.

Moses, however, needs a wingman.

Please Make Me Scary. But Not Yet.

The original St. Augustine, as you know, was the author of City of God Against the Pagans. At the moment, Auggie is more adorable than formidable, and can’t be allowed out by himself. But we think he may grow into his name. His father weighs 140 pounds.

Learning to Love Again

To the both of you who follow my blog: by now you are probably used to the reality that when I am writing a book, I don’t post many blogs. It’s a husbanding your resources thing.

Nevertheless, I interrupt this novel for a brief announcement:

We are in the queue again for a puppy. He has been born. He will be two weeks old tomorrow. We hope to pick him up and fly him home (on our laps) on May 6th. He is a cousin, of some sort, of Moses.

My husband insists that his name will be St. Augustine the Younger. He gets to pick, since I picked Moses, but I am still lobbying for St. George, the Dragon Slayer.

He will win.

So, watch this space for puppy pictures. Because my life needs a complication, albeit a delightful one.

Here is one of the puppies from the litter. Who knows? We may become friends.

 

Slow Turning

I was up before dark this morning, as I am almost every morning. But today I was caught by the beginning light, and I stopped to watch the sunrise.

I kept checking to see if I was mistaken, but it became increasingly clear how far north the sun has moved. Or, more correctly how much we have moved toward the sun. Every day this week the sun rises one minute earlier, and sets one minute later. By now it’s enough extra light to mean the dogs get a run in our favorite woods rather than a mundane walk.

I have dogs to feed, reports to read and meetings to attend, and an unfinished novel. My days are mostly the same.

Still, the cosmos moves in its slow turning toward spring.

Meanwhile there’s still time for a blizzard. It’s what I want for my birthday.

Putting out a Call


North of the Tension Line is on the Target website. Would you please give it a four or five star review?

And if you haven’t already done so at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, would you be so kind?

Books that receive good reviews get noticed and re-ordered.

I’d be grateful if you’d bring along a friend, too.

Thank you.

Support your local author!

Praise from an Islander

Two book series

Some fan letters are particularly meaningful.

I wanted to tell you how much I have enjoyed your first book, although have not yet read the second. It’s always interesting to read something set in a beloved location….although one runs the risk of feeling betrayed. That isn’t the case, here!

I just wanted to tell you that Fiona’s house was owned for a time by my husband’s family, and his Aunt Helen, who was disabled, stayed there for a summer…. 

I, too, am in exile, south of you in Racine. My family is from the Island, as is my husband’s. The lighthouse on Rock is restored to the time of my great grandfather’s tenure there. My grandmother taught in the Detroit Harbor school and ran Central switchboard for a time. My grandfather was a ferry captain, and my son is the 4th generation in our family to work for the Richters. My mom lives in the home my great grandparents bought after retiring from the lighthouse service, and our cottage is on my husband’s family’s land…over 125 years…. 

Thank you for bringing the Island to life for others to see, in a way that preserves the spirit and respects the people who live there…and tells a fabulous story. It’s not easy to do all three.

Thank you.
Kari Gordon

Thank you, Kari.